Are Dog Shock Collars Effective? Behavioral & Physiological Study

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"...there are still behavioral differences that are consistent with a more negative experience for dogs trained with e-collars, although there was no evidence of physiological disturbance."
Public Librairy of Science

Are Dog Shock Collars Effective?

The use of dog shock collars to correct bad behavior has been present for a few decades now. But the real question is: Are dog shock collars effective?

Although the most recent studies show that positive reinforcement can be as good if not a better approach, proper training using a tool such as a dog shock collar can be extremely effective.

As a general feature, most dog shock collars will vibrate and generate a sound as a warning before an actual shock is delivered to the animal.

Consequently, this clever system will often be all it takes for the behavior to be corrected over time.


However, a study published in 2014 by the PLoS (Public library of Science) concluded that contrary to what collar manufacturers claim, the use of a shock collar as far as behavioral differences a more negative experience for dogs trained with e-collars, although there was no evidence of physiological disturbance.

How effective are dog shock collars ?

To begin, we have to define what exactly we mean by effective. If by effective you mean it’s going to stop the dog from barking, then yes it is very effective.

We’ll get into that in just a minute.

However, owner satisfaction isn’t the only factor to consider. We also have to consider the physiological aspect during and after training. After all, why make your dog go thru all of this if it’s only going to end up generating bigger problems in the future right? 

To properly measure its effectiveness, let’s see what the study had to say about it…

What science has to say about it:

Sample Population:

3 Groups, Group A B and C

The majority of dogs (51 dogs / 81%) had worrying or chasing as their owners’ primary concern. They were equally distributed amongst the three groups.

Nine dogs (14%) were chosen for general problems other than chasing and worrying.

Three dogs (5%) were referred to concerning aggressive behavior.

black and white husky looking at camera

Gravity of the problem

Thereafter, the owners were asked to rate the problems they had with their dog from 1 to 3. One is that the problem is always displayed, while three being that the problem is only displayed occasionally.

Here are the results:

-Always displayed: 31 dogs 49%

-Frequently displayed: 24 dogs 38%

-Occasionally displayed: 6 dogs 13%

Behavioral measures and observations

“There were no day effects on dog activity, panting, behavioral state, or tail carriage over the five training days.”

There were small differences between groups as far as the time they spent walking compared to the time they would spend sitting down for example.

The study also mentioned differences in “sniffing times” and environmental interactions between the group as well as a difference between the number of commands given.

Dogs in Groups A & B appeared to receive about twice as many commands per training session than their counterparts in Group C.

Group A did appear to be panting twice as much as the other group according to the study. However, this was not considered a significant effect.

“There was no evidence of a difference in the percentage of scans in the behavioral states relaxed, ambiguous, or excited between the three Groups.”

Physiological measures and observations

As far as training goes, the study showed that “Overall there were no consistent differences between sampling periods in salivary cortisol, and no evidence of interaction between sampling period and Group.”

Similarly,  there was no significant difference in urinary cortisol to creatinine ratios between groups before or after training.

There were also no changes in concentration ratios over the five days of training for any Group.

In other words, you can say there were no measurable effects related to collar settings on any physiological measures.

Owner Perception of Efficacy

In conclusion, the owners were largely satisfied with the training programs. They were asked questions such as:

How effective was the training method in improving the dog’s behavior? 

Were you satisfied with the training methods used with your dog? 

Will you continue to use the training methods for your dog’s referred behavior?

Here is what the results revealed: 

  • 88.5% of owners reported improvement in their dog’s general behavior
  • 91.8%  improvement in the obedience problem
  • There were no significant differences between the responses from the other owners from each group.
  • 90.2% of the owners were satisfied with the training advice they received along the way
  • 88.5% indicated that they would keep using the trainer’s advice from now on 

 There was no evidence of differences between the three training Groups in these measures of satisfaction.

Furthermore, the study mentioned that a high percentage of the owners were confident that they could continue to apply the training techniques.

Additionally, there the results were insignificant in proving that the owners who experienced dog shock collar training were less confident in applying the training approaches seen.


The data is pretty clear, “there was no evidence of physiological disturbance.” 

However, it has been shown that the effects of training with an e-collar give rise to behavioral signs of distress in pet dogs, especially when used at high settings.

Furthermore, even though dog shock collar manufacturers tend to take the behavioral and physiological indicators less seriously, the study shows signs which are more consistent with a negative experience for dogs training with the dog shock collar compared to the ones trained without it.

That’s taking into consideration the fact that there was no hard evidence of physiological disturbances.

Unfortunately, even though the owners were largely happy with the results, the dog shock collar training did not result in a substantially superior response to training in comparison to similarly experienced trainers using other methods.

They went as far as saying that chances to affect the well being of your pet dog is at risk when using such a device by the best practices suggested by the manufacturers. 

The risks are expected to increase in cases where the owners would not use the dog shock collar properly.

My opinion and two product suggestions

Firstly, I have to say that I learned a lot by doing the research for this article.

In the end, it all comes down to personal choices.

To be perfectly honest, I have used these kinds of devices many times in the past and still use them.

I find that if used at the lower settings with the vibration and beeping warning on, the negative effects are reduced considerably.

Above are the two models we have been using with both our Labrador and our Chihuahua. 

We had the chance to test quite a few models in the past year so when I say they are the best, you can take my word for it.

We used it mainly to prevent barking and chasing. The first one is from Petrainer and the second one is from SportDOG.

If you wan’t to check out the specifications, you can click on the pictures to be taken to the Amazon description.

Both models come with key features such as:

-Beeping and vibration warning

-Rechargeable collar

-Multiple training modes

-Rainproof / Waterproof

-Long Range Remote

You might also want to check out our Top 10 Waterproof Dog Shock Collar With Remote by clicking here.

I took price into consideration when making the Top 10 so you will find cheaper options over there.

This article would not have been possible without these sources:


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